Thursday, January 05, 2017


i) I've discussed this before, but I'd like to approach it from a different angle. Both amils and premils (and postmils, I suppose) posit chronological gaps in some Bible prophecies. That can look like special pleading. A face-saving device to savage your eschatological timetable. Or, more seriously, a face-saving device to salvage the prophecy itself. 

Now, I do think Christians of whatever eschatological outlook (amil premil, postmil) can be at risk of postulating ad hoc gaps to protect their position. And I'm not sure we can entirely guard against that. We need to make allowance for the possibility that our prophetic school of thought is mistaken. (That's different from saying the prophecy itself is mistaken.) And we need to have general evidence for our eschatological outlook. We can't be constantly patching it up. 

ii) On a related note, some people are suspicious or dubious about Bible prophecy because they've seen how millennial cults devise creative interpretations when their founding prophet makes false predictions. And they think Christian apologists are guilty of the same antics when defending the Bible.

iii) And I think skepticism is often justified in assessing prophetic claimants. As even Scripture says, "many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn 4:1). The Bible warns of false prophets.

iv) That said, I'd like to make a preliminary point. If there's evidence outside of Scripture that some people can sense the future (e.g. premonitions, premonitory dreams), then that establishes both the possibility and reality of genuine prophetic foresight. And it doesn't take many examples to establish the existence or occurrence of a particular phenomenon. If you have that baseline, then it should affect the presumption you bring to Scripture. At the very least, that ought to make you more sympathetic.  

v) The next point I'd like to explore is whether the notion of prophetic gaps is inherently suspect. Let's consider the idea of Bible prophecy. Even if you don't initially believe it, ask yourself what it would be like in case it's for real. What would a seer experience?

We need to remind ourselves that Bible prophecy is typically a two-stage process. That's easy forget because all we have is the record of vision. So that makes it look like a one-stage process. Since we're reading a prophecy, our default mode is to judge it on those terms. But that's misleading. A visionary revelation didn't originate in writing.  

Let's begin with our ordinary waking perception of temporal succession. We experience the "passage of time" continuously. Instant by instant. 

I can't jump ahead from 1:00 to 2:00. I can't skip over the intervening time. Rather, I must live through each moment to get from 1:00 to 2:00. Unless I suffer a blackout, there are no chronological gaps in my experience of real time. 

Compare that to visionary revelation. Imagine what it's like to be a seer. Suppose, one night, you experience a series of prophetic dreams. It's like watching a movie in your head. You see one scene after another. The scenes keep changing. Then you wake up and write them down.

Now, writing is a different medium than seeing. There are no gaps on the printed page. When you write down what you saw, you don't insert blank spaces between one section and another. Rather, you just write down what you saw in the order in which you remember having seen it–in tidy, evenly spaced paragraphs. 

So when we read a prophecy, the written record is continuous. There are no breaks on the page. 

Yet that's just an artifact of how to represent an experience in writing. It's a category mistake to confuse the nature of the underlying experience with the nature of a textual description. 

Let's go back to the experience of visionary revelation. Suppose these are visions of the future. A series of visions. But here's the thing: there's nothing in what he sees that shows him how much time passes between one scene and another. Serial visionary revelation is discontinuous. A vision of disconnected scenes. 

So there's nothing in the visionary experience to indicate the actual duration of the intervals between one future scene and another. There's an implicit gap between each scene and the next scene. Abrupt scene changes. 

There's no indication that the envisioned events occur in rapid succession, or evenly spaced intervals. If you think about it, it would be rather disorienting to witness. The seer's imagination is bombarded with shifting, disjointed scenes. He saw this, that, and the other thing. 

So the fulfillment of these visions could well be staggered. That's not a case of wedging gaps between a continuum. To the contrary, there's already "space" between one scene and another. And there's no telling how much space separates one scene from another. It could be a brief interlude or centuries apart. 

Consider movies where the action cuts ahead to ten years later. Say you were watching a scene of teenage boyfriend and girlfriend. A moment later, you see a scene of the teenagers all grown up. Married with kids. The director expects the audience to make the mental transition. 

So there's nothing intrinsically suspect about the notion that Bible prophecies contain chronological gaps. Indeed, if you think it about it, that's to be expected. And there'd be no interruptions in the text (hence, no textual clues) since the mechanics of recording the experience are fundamentally different from the mechanics of the recorded experience. 

The interesting question isn't whether there may be the occasional prophetic gap, but whether a reader is even aware of where they lie, in which case prophecy might be riddled with gaps. 


  1. There are two exceptions in the book of Daniel to your explanation. 70 weeks prophecy and last three chapters of the book. These prophecies are not visions. These are verbal communications delivered to Daniel by angels according to the book of Daniel.
    Do you find it is natural to posit gaps in the 70 weeks prophecy, Steve?

    1. These are all introduced as visions.

    2. The contents 70 weeks and last three chapters are verbal messages, even in visions. The message is neither a virtual reality nor a movie show unlike the visions in chapter 7 and 8.

    3. In 70 weeks prophecy, verse 9.24 is clear in stating the objective of 70 weeks and 9.27 is also clear from the previous visions of chapter 7 and 8.

      Verse 9.25 introduces relevant events though not clearly, verse 9.26 is the most ambiguous one. It is either a summary statement of v27 or a verse describing the events sequential to v25.

      V26 refers to end of something whose subject has two legitimate possibilities, 'the desolate' or 'city and sanctuary'. If this subject is 'the desolate' v26 is a summary statement, and v27 is a repetition with providing additional details. On the other hand, if the subject is 'city and sanctuary', how come the sanctuary is again ready for desolation just after it's flood like end? In this case, v26 must be a description of intermediate state between 69 weeks and last week. It is possible that the gap is a legitimate possibility.

      I still have to check the some minor details but it appears to me that on close inspection gap is not so contrived. v26 demanding gap is a logical necessity if one of the two legitimate subjects is preferred. In the history also, the end of the Jerusalem and the sanctuary came like a flood.

      It sounds amazing to me but all of this seems like self delusion. There are many problems in bible. Apart from apparent contradictions there are some legitimate outright theological contradictions. I think it takes some time.

  2. If gap is allowed in the 70 weeks prophecy, I think it gives an impression of fulfillment, but taking this impression as grounds to posit the gap is question begging. The 70 weeks prophecy permits no gap. Premils are dead wrong here. The main objective of 70 weeks is Jewish people and Jerusalem. Interpreting it in terms of the church is reading into the prophecy what one wishes. Amils and Postmils are dead wrong here.

    1. Interpreting it in terms of the church is reading into the prophecy what one wishes. Amils and Postmils are dead wrong here.

      You may be assuming the radical discontinuity and distinction between Israel and the Church taught in normative Dispensationalism (i.e. Classic Dispy, Hyper-Dispy, Revised Dispy). However, Progressive Dispensationalism (a position that arose in the 1990s) recognizes that non-Dispensationalists were often right in saying there is some continuity between Israel and the Church (e.g. Clasic/Historic Premillennialists, Amillennialism, Postmillennialism etc. [who often hold to something closer to Covenant Theology or New Covenant theology]).

      You seem to have been soooooo influenced by normative Dispenstationalism that your tacit assumptions and presuppositions are what is leading you to conclude that the prophecies in Daniel are false because unfulfilled. That's only true if Israel and the Church are completely two different entities. Which, by the way, goes hand in hand with the normative Dispensational view of a parenthetical gap.

      You need to read or listen to more Christians views that reject Dispensationalism. The problems you see don't exist in them. This reminds me of the woman who complained to her gynecologist that her and her boyfriend's use of jelly for lubrication was giving her yeast infections. After a few minutes the doctor eventually found out that the woman wasn't using K-Y jelly but the kind of jelly you spread on toast. In other words, many of your foundational presuppositions are wrong, friend.

    2. Amils and Postmils are dead wrong here.

      Why would God be constrained to write prophecy in such a way that even non-believers could properly interpret it? Non-believers are not qualified (sometimes grossly disqualified) in understanding the deeper spiritual truths of God. Not all Scripture, indeed, not all prophecies, are on the same level of perspicuity. Some things need to be believed before they can be understood. To quote the 'infallible' Wiki [g], "Credo ut intelligam (alternatively spelled Credo ut intellegam) is Latin for "I believe so that I may understand" and is a maxim of Anselm of Canterbury (Proslogion, 1), which is based on a saying of Augustine of Hippo (crede, ut intelligas, "believe so that you may understand"; Tract. Ev. Jo., 29.6)..."

      But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and SEAL THE BOOK, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.- Dan. 12:4

      And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are CLOSED UP AND SEALED till the time of the end.- Dan. 12:9

      The book of Daniel ITSELF says it's SEALED. Yet you try to interpret it as if it's UNSealed. As if it's written for unbelievers. As if it's written to skeptics. As if it were written as prose. As if it's written as a puzzle to be solved for mere intellectual pleasure. As if it were written for 21 century readers and recipients. As if it weren't written with a view to eternity (i.e. such that in the eschaton when all things are fulfilled there will still be blessing attached to its reading).

      If you're looking for evidence for God's existence, prophecy shouldn't be your main focus. Read various apologetical material (e.g. the great stuff on Triablogue for starters).

      You might possibly want to browse my two blogposts:

      "Unveiling" The Hiddenness of God


      Detecting and Finding God

    3. You may say that Dan. 12:9 says that the book of Daniel is "closed up and sealed till the time of the end". And that since we're in the End Times, we should be able to understand it.

      Who says we're in the End Times? That's another possible Dispensational presupposition. All three millennial views (including Historic Premil) can allow for thousands of more years before the end. Even if we are in the End Times that doesn't entail we would have exhaustive understanding of the meaning of the book Daniel.

      Interestingly, all three millennial views can see Dan. 9:24 as having been fulfilled.

      Video lecture by Michael Brown on Daniel 9:24-27 (CLASSIC PREMILLENNIALIST)

      Mp3 lecture by Kim Riddlebarger on Daniel's 70 Weeks (AMILLENNIALIST)

      Mp3 lecture by Ken Gentry on Daniel's 70 Week Prophecy (POSTMILLENNIALIST)

    4. Dear Annoyed Pinoy,
      There is no concept of church in book of Daniel, not even in old testament. It seems to me that you are changing the definition or concept of Israel and Jerusalem to fit to your purpose. There is a concept of gentiles going to the temple of god of Jews in the eschaton but there are no verses which support that the church is the true Israel whereas Jews were replaced by Church in god's plan. You may say Jews rejected Jesus, but the main objective of 70 weeks prophecy is to end the sins and rebellion of Jewish people which flatly contradicts and eliminates what you might say in response. If you are imposing your own standards on the bible, that is dishonesty and blasphemy of god. I'll be faithful to the scripture and treat it with care which might result in either rejecting the faith it presents or accepting the faith.

      I don't know what these dispys exactly are. I don't know the difference between amils and postmils and I don't know what pre means in premils.


  3. i) I take the "70 weeks" to be a numerological extension of Jeremiah's 70 years. Since I don't assume these are literal weeks, I don't assume they are consecutive.

    ii) Dan 11 doesn't indicate the amount of time between one event and other. That's not given in the text. Rather, that's based on scholars who attempt to correlate the text with known historical events. Nothing necessarily wrong with that effort, but the text itself is silent on how soon after one event a subsequent event will take place.

    iii) The Book of Daniel consistently presents Daniel as a seer who receives visions of the future. So the question is why Dan 11 seems to break the pattern.

    One obvious difference is the technical challenge of presenting such a large block of expository material. It would even longer–much longer–if it contained detailed picturesque descriptions like we find in Daniel's shorter visions. So it may be that in this case, angelic dictation is a literary device to condense what was originally a series of visions into something more manageable.

    Would we expect the prophet to have verbatim recall of such a long speech? So the way it's retold may be like Milton using the Archangel Michael in Paradise Lost (Books XI-XII) to give a prophetic overview.

    iv) Finally, history repeats itself. The Jews were subject to periodic persecution. Early Christians faced the same trials. So there's an Antichrist motif in Scripture that's recycled to interpret then-current events. It isn't past rather than future or future rather than past, but something that crops up repeatedly in the course of history.

  4. Do you think Revelation contains examples of these gaps?